Jakeem Morgan believed that the justice system would investigate, find the truth and the nightmare he is living would be over. But today, still he sits at the West Valley Detention Center in San Bernardino awaiting a mid-January arraignment on attempted murder charges. How could this young, hard-working college student who spends a good part of his time working for his church end up in such a situation? Jakeem, an 18-year old, African-American college student and active member of his local church, was headed to his summer job at a national hotel chain—a job he enjoyed while home for the summer from college. By all accounts, he was doing all of the right things—attending college, working, actively involved in his church and being a big proud part of his two-parent, God-fearing family.
But on August 5th, 2008 things suddenly and abruptly changed. Jakeem became an unexpected statistic of what troubles so many families, particularly those of young African-American males. What had been a bright future for a young, hardworking college student who spends much of his time at church functions, became derailed. On that day, as Jakeem arrived at his job, two police officers approached him (they had followed him from his home) and said they wanted to ask him some questions regarding a local shooting. Jakeem insisted that he knew nothing about the incident. The police told him that an unidentified witness had seen him at the incident and based solely on the word of this one witness, the police arrested this young college student and took him to jail.
Ironically, on the night that the shooting occurred, Jakeem had an alibi, however it was not even considered or investigated by police.
Another witness has stated that Jakeem was not at the scene of the crime. Nonetheless, the police took Jakeem into custody and since then, he has been charged with attempted murder and is being held on $800,000 bail. Jakeem has been in custody since August 5th, attended several hearings and to date no credible evidence has been presented. Although he has no criminal record or affiliation with gangs, the District Attorney has alleged and insists that Jakeem is a gang member. Jakeem has offered to take a lie detector test, however, the authorities have not provided one. He was not involved in the shooting and was not at the scene of the incident. What in this young man’s background would cause authorities to believe he is involved in any crime?
While Jakeem sits at the West Valley Detention awaiting arraignment, his family tries to understand how this could have happened. His family is doing all the right things. Nearly twenty years ago, his parents moved to the Inland Empire area to provide Jakeem and his sister with good schools and a safe environment. The family later settled in Fontana and shortly after moving became involved with the Life Church of God in Christ in Riverside. Jakeem has been active in the church’s teen ministry, youth department, drama and dance departments and represented the church at the state level as their role model for young men. A recent graduate of the local Etiwanda High School, Jakeem was active in a number of school activities, including Virtual Enterprise, a business planning organization. Last year, when he headed off to Central State University, his family was extremely proud and Jakeem was focused on doing well and earning good grades. When he arrived home this summer for his break, his parents reminded him that he was still a big part of his local church family and that he would need to split time between his hotel job and working at the church. Typical for Jakeem, he got a summer job, but made sure that his schedule allowed time for him to do church work. His father, a retired postal worker spends much of his time at the church working in the men’s organization, while his mother, employed by a local health organization is active in the women’s group. His younger sister is also quite active in the youth church, the choir and the praise dance group.
Is this the portrait of a young man who would be involved in an incident like this? How can someone who is a role model for his church be arrested and charge with such a serious crime without any credible evidence? One has to wonder the reason authorities would have to arrest and charge this bright, hard-working young man. Many believe the answer is simple. It is because Jakeem is a young African American male. Here is a young man that has consistently done all of the right things—being active in his community, pursuing a college education and working to help fund his studies. Unfortunately, the fact that he is a young African American male seems to outweigh all of the positives about him. Despite all of the evidence to the contrary, it has resulted in him being arrested and unbelievably charged with this crime. Meanwhile, his bright future has been put on hold—his first day of college classes has come and gone—and still he sits at West Valley Detention Center waiting for the ever-so-slow wheels of justice to begin turning.
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